Keen as a Hawk!
I’ve traveled this same stretch of road for decades. One of the 400 series highways crisscrossing southern Ontario––two hundred and fifty kilometers of flat pavement surrounded by some of the richest agricultural land in the world. Other than flocks of crows and the occasional herds of cows and horses, pretty much a mundane drive.
A few years ago, during one of these boring excursions, I noticed a hawk hovering gracefully on high. Imagine, it was the first time I had ever seen a live one. On my next trip, I noticed another one––a grand specimen perched proudly on a fencepost, staring at the streaming traffic. I thought, “Damn, that’s cool!” After that, during each subsequent drive, my eyes were magically drawn to the stealthy creatures––gliding the thermals, perched on treetops, balanced on bushes, or sitting atop fences. I felt compelled to do some research, and I learned a whole lot more about accipiters, these impressive wonders of nature.
On my last trip, I counted ––get this –– 58 of them in a little less than three hours––Sharp-shinned hawks, Cooper’s hawks, and Goshawks. Magnificent! What intrigued me most was that for all those years, during all those trips, there must have been about 58 hawks waiting to amaze me at any given time!
I just never noticed!
Isn’t that just like life? You buy a new car in a cool color you’ve never seen before, and, within days, you discover that your “unique” new wheels are instead a popular choice. Your “recognition radar” has suddenly been activated, and it hones in on the same make, model and color of car around almost every corner!
Imagine zeroing in on a particular positive aspect of life in this same way. For example, the concept of “paying it forward.” Imagine you’re next in line at the grocery store and in front of you is an elderly woman. She is fumbling around in her change purse and doesn’t have quite enough money to pay for her few groceries. Instead of becoming impatient as she slowly ponders which of her items to put aside, you immediately tune in to the opportunity to “pay it forward,” and you simply hand the cashier a few dollars to cover her items.
This very thing happened to me a while back. I offered the frustrated and embarrassed woman some relief for her anxiety. She got the added bonus of learning about the “pay it forward” concept herself. Incidentally, she was very reluctant to accept my offer because she “didn’t take charity.” I suggested she allow me to do her this favor, and then she could do the same thing for someone else sometime. She considered my offer but was still reticent to allow me to help her. She told me instead that she would donate the amount to her church. That sounded like paying it forward to me!
Because I’m dialed-in to this concept, I’m a magnet for these incidents. I love to see the smiles and reactions of people who, for the most part, can’t believe a total stranger would actually be kind enough to help them. It’s a sad commentary on the world at large, but this kind of unexpected help can really open hearts and warm them as well. It’s also a great way to introduce the concept of accepting the kindness offered and then spreading this kindness out into the world.
Along with my oldest grandson’s teacher, I taught an afternoon class called “Pay It Forward” last year. An out-of-class assignment was given to the children to find an opportunity to practice the “pay it forward” concept. They were asked to report back about their experiences. The concept went over so well that during a visit to the classroom several months later, my grandson’s teacher told me that many of his students were still sharing their latest stories of kindness!
The kinds of things you can hone in on, or, tune into, are limitless. I suggest trying the following as an experiment.
Start looking for acts of kindness wherever you go––at the mall, walking in a crowd, or even while driving your car. Most people will only see the frowning, tension-filled faces of passersby. Begin looking beyond the obvious. Watch for that awesome teenager who’s picking up the fallen parcels of a young mother with three kids in tow. Hone in on the sales clerk who’s trying her best to patiently help a new immigrant understand the language so she can make a sound purchase. Study the businessman who’s obviously pressed for time as he chats up a lonely senior citizen. Smile widely as you notice the truck driver pulled over on the shoulder of the road, changing the flat tire on a young girl’s car.
Start consciously searching for the positivity in the world, even if it’s just for a few days. I guarantee you that, just like my newly discovered fine-feathered friends, your life will be brighter from witnessing so much of the goodness you’ve been missing!
Whatever positive thing you choose to focus on, though, do it keenly. As keen as a hawk!